It’s been almost a month since the Gamescom opened its doors in Cologne, Germany, so it’s about time to visit the first public area, Hall 8.
One can easily get carried away, quite literally when it’s as crowded as on the Koelnmesse venue. Unlike some years ago when I went to the business areas (see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and the Sony press screenings from 2013), I’ve only been in the public areas for one day, and it has become even more difficult to play any of the games with such long queues (and this was during the week).
As always, the Koelnmesse wasn’t really prepared for so many people, making you wait before you could actually enter the premises. Security was obviously a joke, as the personnel was just as badly trained, but at least one got through quickly despite them checking bags in a less professional and quite leisure and disorganized way. Anyway, after finally being inside, the first stop was Hall 8 which had products of THQ Nordic, Kalypso Media, Techland, Microsoft, Team17, CD Projekt, Wargaming, and Astragon/Giants among others. Of course it was impossible to see everything, so this is just a short run-through (which was more like a crawl through the crowded and loud area).
Starting with THQ Nordic (a company with the most exciting portfolio and also known for their lovely boxes), I played BattleChasers: NightWar and Spellforce III, both titles I was looking forward to and that had actually free seats to play the PC versions.
BattleChasers: NightWar is from action-adventure series Darksiders creator and comic artist Joe Madureira. The demo I played featured some really cool art design, although it took some time to finally get into a fight. It had some annoying evading-traps scenes, but this didn’t prevent me from still being optimistic about the final version, as I was sold alone on the atmospheric music, colorful graphics, and comic-book aesthetics alone.
Staying in the fantasy genre, it was great to finally see Spellforce III in action. Having already put hours into the original RTS/RPG hybrid, with the sequel and add-on put on hold at the moment, this simply looked and sounded awesome. Again there wasn’t much time, except for some wolf slaying, but my best bet is that one should play this at home instead of in a loud area for the fantasy atmosphere to seek in. This is definitely a title to look forward to when it’s finally released this year.
There were still so many cool titles I wanted to have a look at, but unfortunately waiting queues were too long. Among these were Aquanox: Deep Descent, the follow-up to a great underwater action-sim I used to play back in the days, and Black Mirror, the reboot of the classic point-and-clicker horror series that went from strength to strength to weakness (see my reviews of Black Mirror, Black Mirror II, and Black Mirror III) I’m looking forward to without the general consensus of adventure gamers that it’s bad because of its lack of puzzles.
Elex is an open-world RPG I’ve been keeping my eyes on as well, while Wreckfest looked like a lot of arcade Destruction Derby-style racing, and The Guild 3 was a title I played the year before (which had a nice card game that was given away for free). The biggest announcement I only saw glimpses of was action-adventure Biomutant that already had two very impressive life-like figurines I could make a picture of.
A quick stop at CD Projekt Red showed that Gwent: The Witcher Card Game was their current focus, especially since a competition with money prizes was held over the next few days. I still haven’t played the game yet, but as more and more updates, the most interesting being the single-player campaign, have materialized, it’s only a matter of time before I’ll write about it again.
Wargaming was present with quite a huge area, and even if I haven’t played any of their games, the way how their booths were shown with a tank breaking through a wall was impressive, even if a bit unsettling. World of Tanks, World of Warplanes, and World of Warships were the titles to look out for, and maybe next year, we’ll have a ship breaking through that wall…
Techland had another Gamescom exclusive on their hands. The company known for their Dead Island series (which has been especially problematic in Germany due to censorship) presented God’s Trigger. Those who’ve played Hotline Miami or Hotline Miami 2 (the one I reviewed and the other I previewed) will instantly see the graphical and gameplay connections, i.e. bloodshed and hardcore difficulty. However, this time one can play in multiplayer and there’s a slow-down function which is activated when killing as many people as possible in a short amount of time. It’s surprising that the game got a 16+ age rating, but that’s probably because of the comic-style presentation. It was tough as nails, picking up the right weapons and trying to be as fast possible to dispense of enemies, even with two people playing. Hopefully, there will be an easier mode, as this is a very fun co-op game that needs a bigger audience.
Techland certainly knew how to present their game, with a bar-like atmosphere, if it weren’t for the bloodstains on the wall…
Kalypso Media had Tropico 6, Railway Empire, and Dungeons III. I only played the latter which was just a good continuation of the Dungeon Keeper formula. Mining for gold, training creatures, building one’s dungeon in order to keep do-gooders away hasn’t changed, and the voice acting was just as fun as I remember back in the old Bullfrog gaming days.
Astragon presented Landwirtschafts-Simulator 2018 Platinum and Landwirtschafts-Simulator for the Nintendo Switch, so there weren’t any surprises. Walking by the ever-present agricultural machine and man cow was maybe the best way to get through.
Much more interesting was the output of Team 17 with Genesis: Alpha One, Sword Legacy: Omen, The Escapists 2, and Yoku’s Island Express. I gave the latter title a try and it became one of my instant favorites. A mixture of platforming and pinball, the concept actually worked. It’s difficult to describe, but the colorful world in which one makes the titular bug jump like in a standard platformer was more of a puzzle for quick reflexes when one had to use the flippers to propel it towards certain level segments. Collecting shiny fruits to please the island inhabitants also added an adventure-like element. All in all, this was a joy to play and belongs to everyone’s must-play list.
The final station was Microsoft and while it had its obvious AAA productions like Forza Motorsport 7, Halo Wars 2: Awakening – The Nightmare, Crackdown 3, Sea of Thieves, and Destiny 2, with the emphasis on promoting the Xbox One S and X, there were still many interesting indie titles to play, even though Age of Empires: Definitive Edition showed that Microsoft still knew where it came from with this new update.
Cuphead has been in development for a very long time, but it has lost none of its amazing graphics wonder. Looking like something out of an old Disney cartoon, this is my most anticipated co-op platformer of the year and I hope it plays just as good as it looks.
Platformers and action-adventures can still surprise if they’re different, as could be seen with Away: Journey to the Unexpected. I played this first-person title for a bit, and while it looked colorful, it was the weird world that had me hooked. Every dialogue seemed to be clearly focused on the absurd nature of things, be it a frog that took a bath in the toilet or someone having a deformed hand-head. Definitely something to keep on the radar, although it might infuse motion sickness after a while.
Looking from afar, Disneyland Adventures might only be a collection of mini-games, but the idea to build them around the theme park might be enough for people to play them (me included). Then there were two Sonic games, Sonic Mania and Sonic Rush, the one being very similar in style to the 16-bit classics and the other with a more modern 3D attitude. I’d probably go for the retro version, but the fast and furious speed section certainly looked impressive in 3D (speaking of which, when is the first Sonic game ready for VR? Probably too much to stomach…). Not being about SEGA’s fast hedgehog, but still rather impressive for a Pixar Disney tie-in, Rush seemed to be somehow engaging as well.
Super Lucky’s Tale fit right in with other 16-bit inspired platformers, while Playerunknown’s Battleground, Assassin’s Creed: Origins, and Middle Earth: Shadows of War pleased those with a taste for violence. Even if the queues were too long, I was really interested in the newest Assassin’s Creed, especially since it had an 18+ rating. These were obviously titles with courtesy of Ubisoft, but as Microsoft’s new console should take the spotlight, one would find them here and in Halle 6, but this is for another time.
To be continued…
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